Season start in Austria – end of standstill: Formula 1 starts emergency operation

Spielberg (dpa) – Numbers have always been very important in Formula 1. And so the racing series proudly announces the restart in Austria and makes these house numbers simpler: 4032 and zero.

In plain language: In the latest test series before the comeback in Spielberg, there was not a single Corona case among the 4,032 drivers, team members and other audited employees. So now full throttle into the shortened World Cup year. “This is an extraordinary achievement,” said Jean Todt, President of the World Association, of Formula 1’s efforts to return to the track.

The Frenchman cheerfully provides information about the state of affairs in the corona crisis in a bare room above the main grandstand of the Red Bull Ring, which has also brought racing to a standstill for a long time. In front of him about ten masked journalists are at a distance, the 74-year-old does not understand every question because of the distance at the first attempt. A microphone should not be passed on – risk of viruses.

Everyone in the room is one of those currently tested at least every five days and can have a stick drilled deep into the nasal cavity. Pilots, mechanics, engineers, marshals and everyone else entering the ring this weekend must adhere to the strict hygiene concept. Masks are also required outdoors, fever measurement and hand disinfection at the entrance, strict division into groups that should not be in contact with each other. Formula 1 is serious.

The racing series is the first international sport to become active again. Spectators are initially not allowed into the races. “It is strange to arrive here without opening any fans or guest rooms,” said Todt, who used to be a record team boss at Ferrari with world champion Michael Schumacher. He hopes that the spectators will be able to stand in the stands again soon. “But we have to comply with the regulations in the country in question,” says Todt. Talks are underway with the governments.

In the revised calendar, only eight Grand Prix in Europe are planned this year. This is not enough to save the income of television and sponsors. There must be at least 15 races. The original season start in Australia had to be canceled in the short term due to a Corona case with the McLaren team. After the pandemic, nine more races were canceled or postponed.

Can you still drive this year in countries such as the US, Mexico or Brazil, given the high number of infections? “You really can’t imagine that,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff of the BBC. Corona also does not get away so easily with Formula 1.

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Fia President Todt expects the crisis to have “long-term consequences” for Formula 1. Major manufacturers are also being affected and many people will lose their jobs. But he hopes that “in two or three years’ time, it will be just an extraordinary memory.”

Until then, Formula 1 will do everything to keep the show going. Aerobatic pilots paint a few squiggles of smoke in the sky over the Mur Valley on Saturday, and champagne can even be splashed during the awards ceremony in the Formula 3 junior series. Avoid getting the mask wet.

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